US Military Developing Laser Plasma Speakers

It probably won’t surprise you to know that the US military is very interested in using lasers as weapons. Directed energy weapons such as lasers have many advantages over more traditional kinetic weaponry, not least of which the fact that you don’t need to cart around ammunition for them. But somewhat surprisingly, some of the most promising laser developments have been in the field of non-lethal weaponry. While the mental image of a laser is usually a destructive one, recent demonstrations by the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program show lasers can do more than blow holes your target.

As reported by [Patrick Tucker] of Defense One, a radical new laser-powered sonic weapon was shown off at the “Directed Energy to DC Exhibition”. The system uses two lasers: one to generate a ball of plasma when it hits the target, and another to modulate the plasma ball in open air. The result is a variation of the classic plasma speaker demonstration, where plasma is used as a a driver for a massless speaker.

Currently the system is capable of generating a deafening crack at the target area, with a measured intensity as high as 140 dB. That’s about as loud as fireworks or a shotgun going off at close distance, and in theory is enough to drive off whoever is unlucky enough to be targeted with the beam.

In time, the researchers hope to refine their secondary modulation laser to the point that they can play audio over the plasma. This would allow the beam to be used as a directed loud speaker of sorts, which could prove useful for defensive applications. Only the target would be able to hear the audio, which could be a recording telling them they were entering a secured area. A disembodied voice telling you to turn around sounds like a extremely effective non-violent deterrent to us. The voices in our head don’t have to tell us twice.

We recently looked at the possibility of targeted sonic weapons being used in Cuba, and of course, we’ve covered many plasma speakers on Hackaday over the years. Plasma speakers have always been more or less nothing more than a fun high voltage demonstration, so to see them potentially weaponized is a crossover episode we weren’t expecting.

[Thanks to Kenny for the tip]

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Disarm: Turning Guns Into A Mechanised Musical Orchestra

[Pedro Reyes] is a visual artist who lives in Mexico City. His most recent project was called ‘Disarm’ – a unique exhibit that combined dismantled weapons with sculpture and technology.

The army in Mexico seizes firearms on a regular basis and they are typically either buried or destroyed. But this time a friend working for the National Crime Prevention Commission thought to ask [Pedro] if he could use them for something. A few hundred non-functional guns later, and [Pedro] has a fully automated mechanical orchestra. The articles don’t go into much information about how it works, but it looks like solenoids are mostly utilized to actuate the various instruments. The entire setup is then controlled by a computer, but there’s not much information on the interface design.

When asked about the project, [Pedro] explained his reasoning: “The beautiful thing about ‘Disarm’ as a project is that it combines music, with sculpture, and at the same time, with technology. This is the redemption of metal that could have taken your life or mine. So they are better as musical instruments.”

Watch the 8 minute documentary on ‘Disarm’ by the Creators Project after the break. The weapon-based orchestra sounds pretty good!

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Open Source Weapon Makes You Puke

[Limor] of Adafruit Industries and the Ice Tube Clock has made her own open source non-lethal weapon: The Bedazzler. After attending a conference by the DHS where she saw the big-budget Dazzler, she decided to make her own. Thirty-six LEDs, six switching FETs, a Boarduino, and a former flashlight later, the Bedazzler makes a better rave toy than a weapon. It doesn’t work as-is, but we figure it will only be a matter of time before someone hacks this to make people… umm hack.  See the video after the break.

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